According to recently filed affidavits, Uber and Lyft drivers are being forced to drive while potentially sick with COVID-19 due to a lack of sick leave.
Uber and Lyft were hit with twin lawsuits in federal court seeking employment status for drivers along with sick pay and other benefits. The drivers have filed affidavits to support these allegations and seek emergency injunctions.
According to the Uber and Lyft affidavits, the failure to provide drivers with employment status has forced them to drive while potentially sick with COVID-19.
In February, two drivers, Martin El Koussa and Vladimir Leonidas, allegedly picked up attendees at the Biogen conference and travelers from the Boston Logan International Airport. The Biogen conference has since been confirmed as one of the leading sources for the coronavirus outbreak in the Boston area. Similarly, airports are rife with travelers who may have the virus.
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Leonidas says he is concerned about “passing the coronavirus on to [his] riders” but feels like he doesn’t have a choice in the matter due to financial constraints.
The driver, whose only income is from driving for Uber and Lyft, reportedly started to show symptoms three weeks ago. His symptoms allegedly include a “stuffy nose, sore throat, headaches, body aches, and a lot of phlegm,” prompting him to go to the emergency room. Unfortunately, he was unable to be tested for the coronavirus and has instead treated himself with over-the-counter cold and flu medicine.
Leonidas claims that he regularly cleans his car and provides hand sanitizer out of fear for himself and his passengers but is still concerned about losing his job if he takes further preventative measures such as cancelling trips from high risk locations.
“I do not want to pick up riders who were either coming from or going to risky locations, such as airports or college campuses, while the coronavirus is spreading across the state, but I am afraid to cancel rides because there are not very many ride requests right now and I need the money,” Leonidas wrote in his affidavit.
Similarly, El Koussa is concerned about being sick since he has not been feeling well for the past two weeks. Despite his symptoms, he was allegedly forced to continue to drive during his first week of being sick because he needed the income.
“I was concerned about infecting my riders, but I felt I had no choice but to keep driving because I do not have any other way to make money,” he said. “I live by myself, so there is no one else who can help me pay for my living expenses if I do not work.”
According to both drivers, they would have stayed home if they were classified as employees and provided with sick pay during the outbreak.
Although Uber and Lyft have offered compensation to drivers who are officially diagnosed with COVID-19 or ordered to quarantine, the two drivers claim that the risks for spreading the virus is too high.
Based on these risks, the plaintiffs say there is “no serious argument that helping prevent the spread of a global pandemic is outweighed by the cost of coming into compliance.”
Counsel for the two drivers told Law360 that injunctive relief can’t come soon enough. In California, similar cases are reportedly being expedited considering the global pandemic and its significant effects on working Americans.
“Uber and Lyft have both been flouting Massachusetts and California law for years,” counsel for the drivers told Law360. “Now their refusal to acknowledge their drivers as employees, thus denying them state-mandated sick pay, is only further fueling this global pandemic crisis we are facing.”
The Uber and Lyft lawsuits were filed last year by drivers for the companies. According to the plaintiffs, they and other drivers are significantly controlled in their job by the rideshare operators – qualifying the drivers to be classified as employees. Despite this, the companies allegedly maintain that their drivers are independent contractors. This reportedly denies drivers various benefits including minimum wage and sick leave.
The Uber and Lyft drivers are represented by Shannon Liss-Riordan, Adelaide H. Pagano and Anne Kramer of Lichten & Liss-Riordan PC.
The Uber and Lyft Sick Leave Lawsuits are Capriole v. Uber Technologies Inc., et al., Case No. 1:19-cv-11941, and Cunningham v. Lyft Inc., et al., Case No. 1:19-cv-11974, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
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